Go with the ice floe

Fancy something a little bit out of the ordinary this season? Cathy Packe investigates 10 winter breaks with a difference
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The Independent Travel

1. EX-ARMY TRAIL, COLORADO

A former US army training ground has been turned into a scenic, 350-mile cross-country ski trail. This demanding high altitude trail needs a certain amount of experience as well as skis suitable for backcountry skiing. The distance between each hut is about seven miles, although it is possible to use a single hut as a base for day excursions.

The 20 or so huts along the route are basic. Don't expect much more than a mattress, a wood-burning stove and cooking facilities; water comes from melting the snow. Huts can be booked through the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association (1280 Ute Avenue, Aspen; 00 1 970 925 5775; www.huts.org) and prices start at $26 (£14) per person.

Guided trips, from three to six days, can be booked through Paragon Guides (00 1 970 926 5299; www.paragonguides.com). Three-day trips will cost around $990 (£521).

2. SKIING IN INDIA

If you are bored with the Alps and the Rockies, it could be time to head to the Himalayas. India's main ski resort is Gulmarg in Kashmir, at the western end of the world's highest mountain range. The Ski Club of India was set up here by two British army officers in the 1920s and although the resort has an old-fashioned feel, it is rapidly developing.

Ski Himalaya ( www.skihimalaya.com) is running 15-night trips, departing from Delhi on 13, 20 and 27 January and 3 February. These cost $800 (£421) per person in a double room, $975 (£513) for a single; this includes full-board accommodation and transfers from Srinagar.

Flights from Heathrow to Delhi with Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007; www.virgin-atlantic.com) in January are available from £455. Return air fare from Delhi to Srinagar will cost up to $277 (£146).

3. TREK TO THE NORTH POLE

A 500-mile trek to the North Pole, from the start of the polar ice cap at Wardhut in Canada, ranks as one of the world's most extreme journeys. It takes between 60 and 80 days and hazards include thin ice and polar bears - although the guides are armed with bear repellent, rifles and GPS navigation. The journey is undertaken in small groups, who travel on skis or snowshoes.

The next 500-mile trek departs in March and is organised by Voyage Concepts (81-83 Victoria Road, Surbiton, KT6 4NS; 020-8399 9090; www.voyageconcepts.co.uk). The price of £50,000 includes everything except flights to mainland Canada.

For those with less money, time or courage, the company also runs a shorter trip, approaching the North Pole from Svalbard in Norway and taking up to 16 days. This costs £12,000, including flights to and from the UK.

4. VISIT FATHER CHRISTMAS IN LAPLAND

Although Santa Claus has a home in Greenland, his main abode seems to be in Finnish Lapland - at least, that's the consensus of the tour operators. St Nicholas can be pinned down near Rovaniemi, just above the Arctic Circle. If all you want to do is see the great man, day-trips are available but there are plenty of other wintry activities to undertake too, including ice fishing and tobogganing.

Canterbury Travel (42 High Street, Northwood, HA6 1BL; 01923 822388; www.santa-holidays.com) has five-day trips based in Luosto, from £1,015 based on two people sharing, for full-board accommodation and some activities.

A choice of day trips is also available with departures from 14 regional airports. The itinerary varies, but everyone gets to meet Father Christmas. Day-trips cost £399 for adults, with reductions for children, which includes meals, transfers and the loan of warm outer clothing.

5. SKI TOURING IN YELLOWSTONE

Throughout the winter, Yellowstone National Park is a snow-covered wilderness which makes it ideal for ski touring. A few tracks are groomed and have orange markers, but on the whole the park is untouched, so conditions can be unpredictable.

Yellowstone Expeditions (00 1 406 646 9333; www.yellowstoneexpeditions.com) organises guided tours, departing every Sunday and Thursday from West Yellowstone, and lasting four, five or eight days. These include accommodation in a heated yurt camp, all meals and the park entrance fee. Prices start at $800 (£421) per person for four days, based on double occupancy.

Airline Warehouse (0870 870 0070; www.airlinewarehouse.co.uk) is offering return fares in January of £739 to Bozeman, 90 miles from West Yellowstone, travelling via Amsterdam and Minneapolis-St Paul.

6. SUN AND SNOW IN MOROCCO

Between February and April is the best time to combine skiing in the Atlas mountains with a few days relaxing in Marrakech, where the temperature is likely to be around 20 degrees. Jebel Toukbel is the highest point in the range and the only point in Africa where conditions are suitable for ski mountaineering. Access to the ski area is from the Berber village of Imlil, an hour and a half from Marrakech by minibus or taxi. There are several ski huts in the region, which offer very basic accommodation; you will need to take a warm sleeping bag. These are operated by the Club Alpin Francais (00 212 44 31 90 36; www.cafmaroc.co.ma).

Return flights from Gatwick or Manchester to Marrakech in January with GB Airways on behalf of British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) are available from £129. Rooms at the Riad El Arsat (10 Derb Chemaa, Arset Lougbzail; 00 212 44 387567; www.riad-elarsat-marrakech.com), a traditional hotel in the heart of the medina, costs €170 (£121) a night, including breakfast. A taxi from Marrakech to Imlil ( www.cafmaroc.co.ma) will cost around 350 dirhams (£22), and you will pay 130 dirhams (£8) a night in the ski hut.

7. REINDEER SLEDDING IN SIBERIA

Taking a trip on a sled pulled by huskies is a pretty commonplace winter activity these days; much more adventurous is an expedition pulled by reindeer.

This trip begins in the remote city of Yakutsk. Travelling across the taiga and through the forests is an excellent way to observe the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Yakut and Evenk peoples, and to see the Arctic wildlife at close quarters. There is also a chance to ride Yakut horses. Accommodation is in yurts and local homes, and traditional meals are served. There is also a chance to see Moscow at the beginning and end of the trip.

Arctic Odysseys (3409 East Madison, Seattle, US; 001 206 325 1977; www.arcticodysseys.com) runs 12-night trips, departing from Moscow in February and March. These cost $6,995 (around £4,000). Expect to pay around £250 for a return flight with British Airways (0870 850 9850, www.ba.com) from Heathrow to Moscow.

8. SKI SWITZERLAND BY TRAIN

You need not feel confined to one resort if you ski in Switzerland. The rail system is so efficient that it is possible to ski in a different resort every day. Rail passes make this economical, and Swiss Railways will take care of your luggage while you ski, for a cost of SFr5 (£2) a day. Two- or three-centre holidays are easy to organise, but the timetables make even more ambitious plans feasible.

The Swiss Travel Centre (30 Bedford Street, London WC2 9ED; 00800 100 200 30; www.myswitzerland.com) organises tailor-made holidays. Travel for a week, starting in Geneva and allowing you to ski in eight different resorts (Chateau d'Oex, Gstaad, Leysin, Villars, Les Diablerets, Champery, Verbier and Crans-Montana, for example) will cost £167, using an eight-day Swiss Pass. Two adults travelling together will get a 15 per cent reduction on the fare, and the Swiss Pass also allows a 25 per cent reduction on most cable cars.

9. HAUTE ROUTE, CORSICA

Otherwise known as the GR20, this is widely regarded as the most demanding of the long-distance French walking trails in summer; in winter it is a serious challenge. It begins in Calenzana, south-east of Calvi, and ends up 100 miles later at the opposite end of the island in Conca. In winter it can be tackled on snowshoes in either direction, or on skis from south to north. The whole journey is likely to take a fortnight.

A few huts along the route remain open throughout the year, and are maintained by the authorities of the Parc Natural Regional de Corse (Rue Major Lambroschini, Ajaccio; 00 33 4 95 51 79 10; www.parc-naturel-corse.com).

There are no direct flights in winter between the UK and Corsica, but fares start at around £200 for a return flight with Air France (0870 142 4343; www.airfrance.co.uk), changing in Paris, Nice or Marseille. Guides are available through companies including the Compagnie Regionale des Guides de Corse (00 33 4 95 48 05 22; www.asniolu.club.fr), who charge at least €200 (£143) a day to accompany individuals. A group trip is planned in February, and will cost around €750 (£536). A night in a mountain hut costs €9 (£6.50).

10. GLACIER WALKING IN ICELAND

Winter trips to Iceland often involve admiring the beautiful scenery; this one involves actually walking on the Solheimajokull glacier. Although the trip begins and ends in the capital, one night is spent in a remote farmhouse near Mydralsjokull, one of the largest icecaps in Iceland.

This four-day trip is available through Exodus (0870 240 5550; www.exodus.co.uk). Prices start at £520 for a trip starting and ending in Reykjavik, from £739 including flights to and from London, plus a local charge of £75 to cover incidental costs. This includes accommodation, some meals, activities on two days, as well as suitable clothing, boots and equipment.

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